Bible Readings for September 14th
Reading through the Old Testament can be difficult for a variety of reasons, but perhaps the greatest difficulty arises as we try to make sense of the frequent violence we encounter there. Why did the conquest of the land of Canaan require so much bloodshed? And what are we to make of the fact that David, the king after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14), is a warrior who prolifically sheds blood, even for seemingly minor offenses like when the Ammonites shaved his servants’ beards and cut off their garments at the waist (2 Sam. 10:4)?
As the Bible’s storyline progresses, it is crucial to keep in focus Yahweh’s ultimate purpose in this world: to make his dwelling place with his people. This is what was lost in the Garden of Eden through the sin of Adam and Eve, and this is where the entire story of the Bible is heading, as seen in the final, exultant cry of the Bible’s story in Revelation 21:3: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.’” Everything in the Bible’s story narrates how God comes to dwell with his people—including the warfare of David.
In his book According to Plan, Graeme Goldsworthy helpfully clarifies how the violence of David and the kingdom of God go together. First, Goldsworthy points out the context of the warfare in Canaan: “The destruction of the Canaanites must be understood as the invasion of the kingdom of God into an alien and rebellious world. The saving acts of God on behalf of his chosen people are thus acts of judgment on godless nations.”1 In this kingdom—through God’s chosen king and God’s established tabernacle—God was creating the place where he could dwell with his people on the earth.
But Goldsworthy is also careful to point out that the warfare we read about in the book of Joshua and in the life of David is not the ultimate goal of the Bible: “We need to distinguish between the pattern of events and their perfection. The events of saving history in the Old Testament prefigure and demonstrate the pattern of the one true and perfect saving act yet to come.”2 All of David’s work on earth was important, but David’s most important work by far was to point forward to God’s end-goal of sending the Lord Jesus Christ to rescue, redeem, and restore God’s people and creation itself for all eternity.
Let us therefore not grow sluggish in actively awaiting the day when Jesus Christ will return to judge the living and the dead and to make his dwelling place—that is, his kingdom—in the new heavens and the new earth with us forever and ever.
1 Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1991), 161.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.